I see that Pope Francis has recently cited the failure of the League of Nations, a body about which I have never seen a book in a library nor in a bookshop. Nor have I read an obituary where even a paragraph has been devoted to it.
Within about a week recently I read in THE TIMES of London of one Briton, who flew many bombing missions before being captured, the last of which had consumed by fire 17,000 inhabitants of a German city and another Briton, who as a gunnery officer with the British Navy sank the SCHARNHORST drowning all but a handful of its 1,900 crew in icy waters. The gunnery officer had been sent off to Naval college by his father who had had a similar career.
The League of Nations got off to a bad start because one of the key founders, Japan, wanted an international recognition of human rights, irrespective of the skin colour of the humans. The League was the brainchild of Woodrow Wilson, a racist admirer of the film “Birth of a Nation” which inspired the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, and the Japanese idea was shot down to the tune of Dixie.
The US Senate kept the US out of the League but did not keep out racism.
The Big Four winners of the 1914-1919 War were the four allies – The United Kingdom France, Italy and Japan. They provided the permanent members of its Council of Ministers. And they all behaved abominably. All members of the League were solemnly bound by its charter. All for One And One For All. If any were attacked the rest were committed (on paper) to assist it, by military force if necessary
Land seized by Britain and France from the Ottoman Empire (which had not attacked them) were held by those powers without consultation with their inhabitants and their assets, including oil expropriated.
Britain levied taxes on the people of Iraq and “policed” them from the sky, bombing and machine-gunning civilians exactly as Germany’s Condor Legion was to “police” Guernica some years later. But it seems such behaviour was not discussed at the League because they had a “mandate” to do so. Not the kind of mandate Sinn Fein was granted by Irish voters in 1918 and later.
Japanese militarists attached the Manchuria,a Chinese province, defying and displacing a non-militarist Japanese government and an investigation by the League found Japan in breach of its Covenant. But Japan was Britain’s ally, and Britain had its own Asian peoples under her feet and reneged on the Covenant.
Later another of the Big Four, Italy, attacked Abyssinia, whose Emperor, Haile Selassie appealed, in theLeague’s HQ in Geneva for its help. Italian troops and military hardware passed unhindered through the British controlled Suez Canal to the Rape of Abyssinia. The shameful behaviour of the British and French Governments with regard to Abyssinia are dealt with in “The Dark Valley – A Panorama of the 1930s” by Piers Brendon, the late Keeper of the Churchill Archives, a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and book.
Mussolini organised a stunt whereby Italians, led by King Victor Emmanuel and Queen Elena donated their gold wedding rings to finance the aggression. Elena publicly threw her own and her husband’s into a smoking bronze urn to be melted down and was give in return two steel rings, emblazoned with the motto “Gold to the Fatherland.”
Just as publicly these base metal baubles were blessed by Monsignor Bartolomasi – seeming to imply that theRape of Abysssinia was more Godly than the consummation of Christian marriage?
A quarter of a million Romans followed the Queen’s example and similar ceremonies were held all over Italy.
By the use of murderous air power operated by gloating psychopathic airmen, Italy conquered Abyssinia.and the King of Italy was declared an Emperor. Pope Pius XI, himself an Italian, expressed satisfaction “at the triumph of a great and good people”. Winston Churchill, after the event, though not necessarily because of it, called Mussolini “the Roman Genius.” Evelyn Waugh, brilliant novelist and most revolting of men (just read his diares!) a convert to Catholicism, covered the story for a London paper, delighted in the massacre of the Ethiopians.
In Ireland, Fine Gael, which stood, according to its election posters, for Peace, Prosperity and Piety, deplored the failure of the Fianna Fail Government to support “Catholic Italy” in its predatory savagery.
In fact in 1932, as President of the General Assembly of the League of Nations, and in 1936 as President of its Council of Ministers, Eamon de Valera DEMANDED that the League honour its Covenant and made clear that he would commit Irish troops in a joint League defence of China and Abyssinia.
I saw no mention of de Valera, the Irish Free State, or Ireland in Piers Brendon’s 700 page volume. I do not know of any delegates other than de Valera supporting his demands.
How many from countries later attacked by Hitler did so?
Anyhow, Ireland did her International duty in the 1930s, and she was under no obligation, legal or moral to join in England’s wars, phoney or real, and has none today to parrot her propaganda.